The Old and The New

March 13, 2009

My mum has been a cyclist since she was young. She and her brothers and sisters would regularly cycle to Anglesey from their home in Liverpool (a distance of 100 miles door-to-door) in a day. Even now she still cycles to the shops and to church.

So it was a bitter blow when the local bike shop told her that her bike was ‘gone the way of all flesh’ and should be consigned to a museum as a non-working exhibit.

It may have been a blow to her but it was a Godsend to her children as we had been scratching our heads trying to think what we might buy her for an 80th birthday present – a new bike was obviously the answer!

Now, I don’t know if you’ve been to a bike shop recently. They are full of gleaming machines with 20 or 30 gears and drop handlebars or sturdy mountain bikes with front suspension forks and no mudguards. Neither of these appealed to a soon to be octogenarian! She wanted something simple, that was well built and would cope with short trips.

I took her around a number of bike shops to have a look and see what might interest her. She was quite taken by a Raleigh in Thatto Heath but it didn’t have a full mudguard and had 6 gears. There was a Dawes which caught her eye but it had a steel frame so might get a bit rusty as she parks it under a carport rather than in a garage. As is so often the way, we ended up at the bike shop nearest her house where, after explaining her needs to the lass in charge she was shown a Raleigh Elegance. It was, almost, everything she needed. 3 Sturmey-Archer gears, full mudguards, a fully enclosed chain mechanism and ‘Mary Poppins style’ handlebars. It even had skirtguards, a wicker basket, rear pannier rack and, get this, a suspension mounted saddle.

So why was it only ‘almost’ everything she wanted? Well, because it didn’t have her trusty, well worn, well broken in Brookes leather saddle; a trusty friend of many years standing (or sitting!).

No problem, the shop will swap the saddle that comes with the bike (allegedly very comfortable) with her old saddle – she is as happy as can be. She has a brand new bike with a lightweight aluminium frame ready to be delivered in a few days. But, most important of all, it will have her own old battered saddle, something with which she knows she will be comfortable.

What, if anything, does this have to do with church? Maybe nothing at all … but we all know of churches where new ministers/priests want to try new things to attract and cater for a younger generation. There is always an assumption that ‘the old ones won’t like it’. My mum and her bike give the lie to that way of thinking. She loves the new technology, the lightweight frame, the more effective brakes and the ‘throttle’ gears – but she needed something from the past with which she felt comfortable – a link to a bygone era which has served her well in changing times. As Christians we have ALL done this. Despite the new Gospel preached by Jesus and his followers in the early church, we still make links back to the Old Testament, the history of a bygone era that seems to have little use or relevance for us today given the new good news.

If we truly want to move forward in faith, and in worship, we must not leave behind those things which have served us well up until now. New doesn’t necessarily mean better – it just means different. People are usually willing to accept new experiences, new ways of doing things, new technology – but we all want a little remnant of what we are used to.

Happy riding, Mum!